The Girl on the Train begins with an element of control. "My husband used to tell me I have an overactive imagination," says a blue eyed woman who marks an X on the condensation of a train window. It is a blanket statement in that it is something one would say to a small child who has too many imaginary friends. Her name is Rachel and she thinks " I can't help it. Haven't you ever been on a train and wondered about the lives of the people who live near the tracks?"
Rachel seems contemplative. And if one has not read about the film before viewing it, the viewer will find that soon enough, a natural and artful curiosity about human nature has somewhere along the way turned into an obsession.
She says, "I'm not the girl, I used to be." This is not the statement of an independent businesswoman, despite her suit-jacket. It's the mindset of a girl, lost, isolated and confused.
Rachel's favorite house is number 15 Beckett Road. In the young blond woman who lives there, Rachel sees the life she lost. The woman stands in a bathrobe and slippers on the balcony. Other times she is curled up next to her husband as they sit in front of a campfire.
Rachel sits in a bar and draws the couple on her sketchpad as she has a martini. And in a house two doors down from 15 Becket Road is a woman happily holding a baby. This is Rachel's old home, that she had with her husband, Tom.
One does start to wonder what she does all day. A woman with a baby boy sits next to her on the train and as Rachel coos at the child the woman sees a bottle of hard liquor in Rachel's bag. The stranger looks angry and uncomfortable for it.
It becomes increasingly apparent that Rachel is drinking phenomenal amounts, particularly of hard liquor. Her voice has the constant slur of someone who always has alcohol in their system. She drinks at bars and from a water bottle. Whether in public or private she usually drinks alone.
Megan is the woman who lives at number 15. She is a bit of a lost soul herself as she does not fit into the yoga crowd, and her marriage is already crumbling. Megan speaks of the various phases of her modern life, She has been a rebellious teenager, lover, gallery director, nanny and whore though not all in that order. She wants to start her entire life over again and does not seem to appreciate nor be particularly happy with anything she has. Rachel's version of "Megan" is far more romantic.
There's a sense of modern American isolation to the entire film. There's no extended family looking out for the women, nor does anyone seem to know their neighbors in a friendly way. Megan's best friend is her shrink.
Megan's husband, Scott wants a baby. And she says to her therapist that he thinks her current nanny job will make her want to get pregnant. Help her to settle down. But Megan wants nothing to do with babies. She has the job for other reasons.
When Megan disappears, Rachel begins on a quest to understand what happened the last night Megan was seen. She can't remember exactly and the blackouts leave her with fragmented and confused memories. She does know she saw someone who looked like Megan in a tunnel. But when she wakes up with her articles and hair covered in blood she has no idea what occurred.
When detectives get involved it is brought to the attention of Rachel's roommate that she doesn't have a job and hasn't for the past year. She takes the train to New York and back every day. Her roommate is suspicious that Rachel did not kill Megan and gives her a few weeks notice.
The memories filter back and forth and it is a kaleidoscope of who is the abuser and who is the abused. Eventually it is found who did kill Megan. It culminates in a fight fire with fire means to an end. And Rachel begins a new life.
By Sarah Bahl